The hiker stood on the edge of the plains in Montana, staring in wonder at the waving, breeze-kissed grasses. It was so beautiful, he thought, I could just stay here forever. He started across, hoping to photograph a herd of wild horses that were last seen to be grazing in this very area. The herd, it was said, was almost magically elusive. But Mika knew if he was patient enough, he would get the coveted shot. The sun was warm, but not unbearably so as he walked across the plains. Coming up to his waist, the soft grasses smelled so sweet and fragrant he wished he could bottle the scent and keep the memory of it forever.
Mika, deciding to hunker down at the edge of the Plains, started matting down the grass to set up his camera. He wanted action shots of the horses running, grazing and if he was lucky, he would even get a few close ups. The grass, soft and comfortable, made Mika feel sleepy. Lying back he looked up at the cloudless teal sky, feeling his eyes close as he floated away in a field of dreams.
He woke abruptly to a strange sound not more then a few feet away from where he lay. Grunting, stomping, and air blowing through nostrils told him that horses were very close. Heart racing with excitement, he sat up slowly, as quietly as he could, and reached for his camera. But something about this felt wrong. The horses suddenly grew quiet. There were four in all, and and they had him surrounded. There wasn’t the tell tale nervousness like head tossing, foot stamping or neighing, they were just strangely silent..
“Well, what’s this then?” he asked, more to himself then to the horses. They were mares, all of them, he noticed. The little hairs on the back of his neck stood straight up as he looked at their empty, bottomless eyes. There were no whites, instead, the mare’s eyes were pure obsidian matching their coats, slick and shiny as an oil spill.
“What the fuck is going on here.” he said, standing slowly. “Whoa, girls. Just back up, now.” He tried to talk soothingly. “No one is going to hurt you.”
He noticed that they didn’t have that awesome horse odor he loved as a child growing up visiting his grandfather’s Quarter horse farm. He had always loved their rich, musty odor as he cleaned the stalls. His mother used to tell him to change his clothes after he was done in the barn, but he loved the horse smell that lingered on them. But these horses. My God! They smelled like a week old carcass decaying in the hot, summer sun. It was sweet and cloying, filling his nostrils with it’s putrescent odor. He gagged, and the horses startled, pawed the ground, snorting angrily. He could have sworn that some them literally growled, but horses don’t growl, do they? The circle of mares tightened, and Miko felt a menacing feeling of dread as they pulled in closer. Then one of the mares darted her head in and gave Mika a painful nip with her huge teeth.
“Shit!” he yelled, truly frightened now. “Back off, you bitches!” he screamed. “Get away from me!”
With their thick, heavy hooves, they started pawing at him, rearing up and coming down with sharp, kicking blows. He covered his head, but was soon knocked to his knees screaming as their hooves shattered his forearms. Their bites were vicious now, brutal snaps that tore the flesh on the back of his neck and upper arms. As he tried to shield himself, a sharp crack on his skull from a well placed hoof rendered him unconscious. Screaming victoriously, they each ripped the flesh from the man’s bones, making horrid noises of pleasure as they ate.
Having their fill, the mares turned around towards the darkening west skies. Like living shadows, the
horses faded as one into the darkness as if they had never been.
“Hey,Sheriff!” Dixie called out from behind the counter as she poured a customer’s coffee. “What brings you here this time of day, isn’t Jim on call now?”
“Yeah, he’s out on a call that came in this morning out in Broomfield county. A body.”
Sheriff Douglas Turnbull told her, sitting at his favorite booth by the window. Dixie was all ears and slid in on the other side.
“A body? Anyone we know?” she asked eagerly, needing gossip ammunition.
“No, we think it’s a outsider, a photographer, by the looks of it. Funny thing is, all the evidence shows that he was attacked by horses, of all the darnedest things.”
“Horses? Why in the world would horses kill anyone? That’s just ridiculous, Doug.” Dixie exclaimed. “Are you sure?”
“That’s not the worst part. It seems that after they trampled and kicked him to death, they partially ate him!” he said, taking off his hat and wiping the sweat off his brow.
“Are you kidding me? What is this, some type of prank?” she asked in disbelief. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of horses doing anything like this, Doug. My God.” she got up then, eager to spread this bit of gossip to anyone who would listen.
Sitting in the booth behind them, a man in a worn, brown cowboy hat listened with growing interest. Daniel Swifthawk, an Ojibwe Indian, felt his heart speed up as he listened to sheriff describe their findings. Finishing his coffee in three gulps, he slapped a twenty on table, treating Dixie to a ten dollar tip. He had to go visit his grandfather right away. If the sheriff was right about what they discovered on the plains, his grandfather needed to know, now.
“Daniel, are you absolutely sure about what you heard?” Joseph Hawk asked his grandson.
“Yes grandfather.” Daniel told him. His grandfather was almost ninety-six years old, but he still could take care of himself. His home, a little cabin on the edge of the plains, stood miles from town, away from people. He lived simply, by hunting and accepting supplies from family members. He still fished, hunted small game and cooked for himself. Daniel cut his winter wood supply every year and made sure that his aging grandfather didn’t have to go far to get it.
“If that’s that’s the case, Daniel, you have to get in touch with the Elders of the Council immediately.” Joseph urged his grandson. “I never thought I would see the day. Someone broke the bones, Daniel. The Mares can only be stopped if they are put back into position!”
“Grandfather, who placed the bones to begin with? How old are these mares?”
“The Mares came with the Greeks. When the whites first came on their big boats, these mares were kept in special, reinforced stalls. They were wild and untamed until one day, tired of trying a deal with their viciousness, a stable boy grew careless. Hoping to calm them with soft words and gentle handling, he stepped into the stall against the orders of the captain.Not only did the mares kill him instantly, they ate him. The captain, noticing how completely docile they became after devouring the stable boy’s flesh, made it a point to not only threaten mutinous ship hands, but also to get rid of the sick and the dead.
“Daniel, these horses are not from this world. They reside in the dark world and must be sent back there. We must go to the cave and set the bones.” he told Daniel. “If not, they will keep killing.”
“But Grandfather, where is the cave?” he asked.
“I think we need to ask the spirits, Daniel, so go prepare in the cleansing spring in Wolf Hollow and I’ll meet you there. And Daniel, be careful. If they get wind of our intentions, they will hunt us down and kill us. Keep your spirit light and think pure thoughts. Do not let them feel any negativity. Do you understand, grandson?”
“Yes, Grandfather, I understand. I’ll go now.”
Daniel got in his jeep and took off for Wolf’s Hollow near the grass plains at the edge of town. Wolf’s Hollow sat on a part of the earth that had been pushed upward by retreating glaciers. The cave sat at the bottom of the earth’s rise, then plunged downward into the earth. As he walked it’s long, sloping hallways, he was greeted by a magma-heated sulfur spring. Warm and bubbly, it was the perfect natural sauna, with temperatures reaching almost one hundred degrees. Daniel, sitting at the brim of the spring, heard his grandfather huffing and puffing his way down into the chamber. With him, he carried his pipe and his medicine bundle. His medicine bundle was sacred, no one but a shaman could know the contents of the bundle. His pipe represented the ebb and flow of life. Daniel and him would pray for guidance, then send the smoke up to the Great Spirit.
As they were sweated out their impurities, a strange sound came from up above that echoed down into the chamber as they prayed. The sound of air exhaled through many pairs of very large nostrils. Stomping of hooves and sharp, excited nickers, making Daniel break out in goosebumps in the hot room.
“They sense something, Daniel, but they know not what. We are protected by the Great spirit in here. Come, let us finish up then leave this place and you can set off to find the cave in the morning.” Joseph instructed, rising up from the spring like a young man. The spring always helped his joints and he wondered why he stayed away so long.
As Daniel and his grandfather reached the entrance of the cave, the mares were long gone. Feeling better, Daniel relaxed and listen to his grandfather, only thinking of good, pure thoughts. And as he did, the piercing cry of a hawk split the night. Immediately Daniel and Joseph were alert. The hawk was their spirit guide and for him to be out at night was surely was a sign.
“Daniel! Our friend has something to show us! We must follow him now!” Joseph urged his grandson.
Suddenly, another sound came out of the shadows, a sound more menacing then either one of them had ever heard. The sound of hooves.
“Daniel! Run! find cover NOW!” Joseph yelled. The horses were coming and they were out in the open.
“Grandfather, no! I won’t leave without you!” Daniel screamed, running to his side. He grabbed the elderly man by his arm and helped him as they both tried to run for cover. A circle of boulders was just up ahead, and it might provide them with some safety. He guided Joseph up to them, and no sooner had they reached the huge rocks, when the four mares came charging up the narrow path, eyes wide and nostrils flaring. They screamed in equine fury, pounding the dry earth with their hooves. One of the mares cut off Daniel’s path to the boulders, and the men found themselves surrounded by four of the biggest mares they’d ever seen.
© 2016, RissRyker518. All rights reserved.
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